Feet like the deer

Habakkuk 3:19 “GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”

One of the most sure-footed animals on the face of the earth is the deer.  It’s an awesome thing to watch one of these beautiful animals run up the side of a mountain or across a boulder hewn stream bottom and never miss a step.  When we think of the word “stumble” it is certain that the picture of a deer never comes to mind. God had created the deer’s feet in to equip them to nimbly negotiate the most unstable and challenging landscapes.  It’s as natural to them to run across the top of a mountain as it is for us to walk across a room.  And it is to this picture that the prophet Habakkuk turns as he describes the wonderful stability that the Lord had given him as he walked through life.  He glorifies the God Who had given him strength and guided his steps through the most difficult and trying circumstances he has ever faced. He looks back to how God had helped him and then looked forward with confidence, come what may, for he had learned that if he would “Trust in the Lord with all (his) heart, and . . . not lean on his own understanding . . . (if) in all (his) ways (he would) acknowledge him, . . . he (would) make straight (his) paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

But note the deeper context from which Habakkuk wrote.  In the verses immediately preceding verse 19 above, Habakkuk says this:  “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).  Talk about uncertainty, instability, and a reason to fret, particularly in an agricultural setting from which he obviously wrote!  Yet, Habakkuk knew that even in the very worst of times, the Lord would guide him step by step, and give him stability as great as that of a deer moving confidently across the most unstable conditions.  That’s what God is to the believer.  He is One in Whom we can trust to care for us and guide us in the most uncertain of times.  We can be confident that the One who made the feet of the deer to negotiate the instability and unevenness of the rocks on the side of a mountain will give us the stability to walk with confidence in uncertain times.

One of the ways I’ve heard people be described who tend to fall apart in times of pressure and uncertainty is that they are “unstable.”  “Instability” is a good description of the internal emotions that can creep into anyone’s heart when very uncertain challenges and difficult times come into our lives.  But it is to this that the prophet Habakkuk speaks as he assures us that God will direct our paths if we put our trust in His strength and wisdom, rather than in our own.  As another prophet has told us in similar language, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:29-31). 

So, do you know this One who gives such strength to the weary. Do you know the One who makes our feet like the feet of the deer?  You can, if you want to, if you but do as one more prophet has told us with the words spoken through him by God: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:11-13). 

Of course, you could do something else – or turn to someone else at such times. But why?  For as Peter declared in the New Testament when Jesus asked him where else he might go: “Lord, to whom shall we go? YOU have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).  And you will come to know this as well, if you turn from what you are trusting in, if it is other than this One Who alone is perfectly trustworthy, and seek Him with all your heart – the way Habakkuk, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter, and anyone else has come to learn as they faced all the many uncertainties of life.

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